When do you need God? Most people (Christians included) only reserve God for the “this-is-so-tough-I-can’t-do-this-without-you-God” moments of life such as when life-threatening sickness comes, death visits us, or financial anxieties take control of our lives, or when career issues threaten our stability, or marriage problems break our hearts, and the list could go on and on. It’s true, in those times we need God, we need Him in a real way, because let’s be honest we can’t do it without Him. However, what about the others times of life, those mundane moments of life when we feel pretty secure in our abilities to make it through on our own, such as, driving to work or to school or to the grocery store? Do we need God then? What about when we get a sniffle, do we need God then? What about something as thoughtless as breathing do we need God to enable us the breath? You see where I’m going with this don’t you? We have an everyday need for God in our lives.
Paul warned us not to think too highly of ourselves in Romans 12:3. Rather, we need to be sober-minded and realize we are where we are because of God’s grace.
It’s all too easy for us to suffer from the dreaded Charlie Anderson Syndrome of thinking too highly of ourselves and our accomplishments. Movie buffs will remember Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of the tough, independent minded Charlie Anderson from the 1965 film Shenandoah. In the movie, Charlie Anderson prays to God on several occasions saying:
Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.
After all, just like Charlie Anderson, we can fall into the trap of thinking we did the work that earned the money that put the food on the table, the roof over our heads and the clothes on our backs. How easy it is to think we are independent from God.
However, that is not the case. We depend on God everyday for everything (and I mean everything!) and our prayer lives must show our dependence upon Him for all the things we need.
When the disciples came to Jesus and ask Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-13) He taught them to be dependent on God for everything through prayer. He did this by teaching them What to Say (11:2-4) which is the expression of our dependence on God through words; What to Do(11:5-8) which is the expression of our dependence on God through persistence; and, What to Expect (11:9-13) which is the expression of our dependence on God through an expectation of good gifts from Him.
What To Say – When Jesus began His teaching on prayer, He started with what to say. In teaching His disciples, and us, on what to say He was teaching that the words we pray are an expression of our dependence on God for our everyday needs. Keep this in mind as we examine what The Model Prayer:
“Our Father…” The Father is the one who nourishes and strengthens; who supports and maintains. We depend on him for all our everyday needs.
“In Heaven,” We are on earth, God is in heaven. He is not limited by what limits us, we depend on him for all our everyday needs (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“Hallowed be Your name.” He is to be honored, hallowed and set apart in our hearts and minds because we depend on Him for all our everyday needs.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus wants us to pray that God’s reign will spread through the hearts of men on earth, so that men will seek first the kingdom of God because all men need to see that they depend on God for all of their everyday needs.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition is more than a passing request for our physical needs to be met. In these words, we acknowledge God can only fulfill our physical needs because we depend on Him for all our everyday needs. Yet, it goes deeper than that. As we depend on Him for all our everyday needs, we are saying all we want is what God feels is all we need.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Petitioning God for forgiveness acknowledges our dependence on God for mercy, grace and forgiveness everyday of our lives. Furthermore, when God forgives us as He promised (1 John 1:9), we cannot withhold forgiveness from others.
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We have an everyday need for God in the area of temptation and deliverance because left to ourselves we will gravitate toward Satan and sin.
The Lord did not teach his disciples, and us, a how-to formula for prayer that ensures all prayers would be answered. Instead, He taught us what to say so that we would best recognize our everyday dependence on God for everything we need.
What To Do – As Jesus progresses in His teaching of the disciples to pray, and especially emphasizing their dependence on God, He uses a parable to illustrate that their dependence on God is manifested in persistently petitioning God.
In Jesus’ parable (Luke 11:5-8) a person has an unexpected friend arrive from a long journey. Because this friend did not expect company, especially at midnight, he had no food with which to feed his guest. (In Jesus’ day, it was an unthinkable horror for a host not to have food to set before a guest.) In an effort to maintain his honor as a host, the friend turns to his neighbor for help. Even though it is midnight and everyone is in bed asleep, the friend knocks on his neighbor’s door and asks for three loaves of bread. At first, the neighbor refuses but relents and gives his friend the bread he needs. Jesus said the friend got the bread he needed not because he was his neighbor’s friend but because he was persistentin his request, because he boldly, shamelessly and repeatedly petitioned his neighbor for what he needed. And why not? Where else was he going to go to get what he needed?
In this parable, Jesus is teaching that we are to boldly, shamelessly be persistent in our petitions to God. Let me illustrate this point with my five-year-old son. Sometimes he gets up much earlier than my wife and I. When he does this, he will come into our room, stand by the bed and boldly, and without an ounce of shame, declare that he is hungry and wants breakfast. His petition for breakfast will continue until his hunger is satisfied. Why does he do that? Because he is totally dependent on us to feed him, he can’t get it on his own. In the same way, we are totally dependent on God so let’s boldly, shamelessly and persistently go to Him in prayer.
The Bible is full of bold and shameless, persistent prayers: Abraham petitioned God on behalf of Sodom six times (Genesis 18:23-33). Moses prayed for Israel’s salvation from God’s wrath for forty days (Deuteronomy 9:18). Nehemiah prayed for days about the broken wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4). In Luke 16:12 Jesus spent all night in prayer before He chose the twelve apostles. Jesus taught the disciples to not lose heart in the parable of the Persistent Widow who received justice because of her “continual coming,” because she was persistent (Luke 18:1-8). In Acts 9:9, 11Saul prayed for three days after his Damascus road experience. In Acts 12:5 the whole church in Jerusalem was constantly praying for Peter’s release from prison. In all these prayers, what we see is people boldly, shamelessly and persistently praying to God because they were totally dependent on Him.
Should we bold, shameless and persist in our request? Absolutely! Some things are just that important to us. Remember, God will always answer our prayers, but that is not a guarantee that He will always answer them in the way we envision. As we will see in our next section, we can expect that whatever our Heavenly Father gives us it will be good.
What To Expect – As Jesus ends His lesson on prayer He gives one more encouragement to be persistent in our petitions by saying, “ask, and it will be given… seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9) By connecting this passage to the previous passage, we again see that we should persistently come to God through prayer, conscious of our dependence upon Him. In addition to that, Jesus is also teaching that as His disciples we should expect good things from our Father. This lesson is shown by comparing lesser givers, our earthly fathers (11:11-12), to the highest giver, our Heavenly Father (11:13). If our earthly fathers know how to give good gifts when we ask, seek and knock, how much more so will our Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who persistently ask, seek and knock?
Why should we ask, seek and knock when Jesus told us that God knows everything that we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8)? The answer can be found in the over arching purpose of prayer, to teach us that we have an everyday need for God. When we ask for physical blessings, we recognize our inability to provide for ourselves. When we seek after spiritual blessings, we recognize how much we need God’s mercy. When we knock on the gates of heaven on behalf of others, we recognize that we, as strong and as able as we might be, cannot provide what they need. Only God can give the good gifts that will satisfy all of our desires.
What about when God does not answer our prayers, the way we expected Him to. Because God is love (1 John 4:8 cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) we can trust Him and the ways He answers our prayers. In fact, that is exactly what the scriptures say we could expect, “good gifts.” (Luke 11:13; James 1:17) Does that mean a blanket “Yes” to every request and desire? No, it simple means that we can expect God’s answers to be good and because we can trust Him, it will always be what is best for us.
What have we learned? We have an everyday need for God, not just in the big moments of life but in every facet because we are totally dependent on Him. Jesus taught us to express that dependence on God in our words, our actions, and through our expectations. Let’s be people who not only recognize our need but express that need through prayer.
I would love to hear from you in regards to your thoughts on prayer. Make a comment to this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to my friend Edwin Crozier for his help in developing this lesson and for permission to use some of his material. You can find Edwin at www.giveattentiontoreading.com or www.edwincrozier.com
 Persistence as used in Luke 11:8 is the Greek word anaideia, which occurs only here in the NT. A better translation of this word would be impudence (ESV) which indicates that the friend shamelessly and boldly awakened his neighbor. On this interpretation, Jesus’ point is that if even a human being will respond to his neighbor in that way, then Christians should go boldly before God with any need. See also Ephesians 3:12 andHebrews 4:16.